Inspiration – Ayat Al-Gormezi

A few weeks ago I posted about the uprising in Bahrain and how it was quashed by the Bahraini government and pretty much ignored by the rest of the world. If you watched the Al Jazeera documentary that stemmed my original post you probably shed a few tears in the same way I did and wondered why Bahrain was ignored when other countries weren’t. The answers to those questions are pretty self-explanatory, even to an idealist like myself (cynical idealist is probably a better way of putting it). In any case, out of this uprising came a young woman who should be a source of inspiration to us all. No matter what your religion, skin colour or personal beliefs are, we all have the right to live in freedom, to speak freely and to be able to live our lives without having to constantly check our backs to make sure we are not being followed or spied on.

During the popular uprising of Bahrain in the spring of 2011, Ayat Al-Gormezi, a 20 year old student and poet recited a poem that criticized the Bahraini government and its policies. She was subsequently arrested, subjected to psychological and physical harassment and most possibly torture and sentenced to a year in jail. Her family was also subjected to major harassment before and after her arrest, and they had no idea where she was being held or what had happened to her. With other vocal public figures that had been arrested during the uprising turning up dead, I assume that her family would expect the worst every day. Ayat was eventually tried without any type of representation (not even allowed to represent herself) and charged with a year in prison for "incitement to hatred of the regime", "insulting members of the royal family" and "illegal assembly” – all because she used freedom of speech to express her views on the way the government was treating the Bahraini people.

She was subsequently released, but remains on house arrest, and was forced to make a public apology on television to the king and the prime minister. All for using her creativity and art to express how she, and a whole nation, feels about the way they are being governed. Imprisoning her and subjecting her to abuse just because she spoke her mind is to me a form of extreme censorship and dictatorship. Ayat Al-Gormezi continues to advocate her thoughts through other channels outside of Bahrain and will not be silenced.

I don’t think I need to explain why Ayat Al-Gormezi is an inspiration to me, as well as to many others – without fear she walked on stage and spoke her mind in front of thousands, and consequently was imprisoned and suffered for speaking her mind against governmental injustices. I doubt that she will ever really be silenced, and for this she should be celebrated. I feel that if we all stood up and spoke our minds a little more there would be a little less suffering in this world and a little more activism.

Here is Ayat reading her poem on stage last year, with English subtitles:

Here is a blog about Ayat:

Here is the forced apology on national Bahraini TV (with English translation):

So what's going on in Yemen?

I was on my way home from work a few weeks ago, around 5:45 am, when I stopped into my local/favourite deli on the corner. I love this deli and I love the guys who work in it. They are all from the same big Yemeni family and always remember me, remember what I like to eat, ask me how I am and how my day is going and all of that nice stuff. And I always return the favour. I stop by to say hello, chat with the guys about where they are from as well as random everyday stuff, kind of just make the place into my local corner shop that I stop into every day. The reason I stopped by after work the other night was because I saw some sketchy looking guys hanging out on my street corner, and I just didn't feel comfortable walking past them - so I went to hang out at the deli for a bit, until they left. The guys who were working the night shift were watching something on TV behind the counter, and I joined them... They were watching reports on the ongoing protests and governmental/police violence in Yemen, protests that have been going on for months.

Yet again another country that the media doesn't really care about. I posted about Bahrain a while ago, and we all know what happened there (or you do if you either read my post and watched the AJE documentary I posted). So what's been happening in Yemen? The country has been rising against the existing governmental body, requesting the resignation of president Ali Abdullah Saleh since last January. That means nearly a whole YEAR. A whole year of protests and crackdowns on protests and police and the army shooting into the crowds and killing people. A year of negotiations and agreements and backing out of agreements and confusion and lies and more marches and demonstrations. The murder of innocent people by the government is not calming the crowds down - it's making them even more intent on fighting for change.

Saleh has been in power since 1978. That is the year I was born, and this means that the same man has been governing Yemen for the past 33 years. I honestly doubt that he has been democratically elected as president for the past 33 years, so it's only natural that the people want to see something different, especially with the other uprisings and fall of dictatorships in other Arab countries this year. Apparently the elections in Yemen have been set for next February, but with the recent shootings who knows? Protesters marched miles for 4 days from the city of Taiz to the capital to demonstrate their unhappiness and discontent with the way things are moving, and were attacked with tear gas and sniper shots; men throwing stones at the crowds and attacking women. How much longer does this need to go on for until someone decides that it's enough? Is this another Bahrain, or maybe another Egypt? There has been internal fighting in Yemen for years now, and different political factions clashing... Including Al-Qaeda. So with Saleh on his way out, does this mean a different type of worry for the West?

Do you even really care? I know I do. And I know my friends from the deli on the corner are worried about their country and their family. I know revolution is not usually non-violent, but it doesn't always need to come at such a price.

More information:
Yemen Live Blog on AJE
Yemeni Uprising on Wikipedia (remember that not everything is always 100% accurate)

Bahrain: Shouting in the dark - documentary to watch

Bahrain: Shouting in the dark
(Al Jazeera documentary - the journalist crew who filmed and documented all of the content in this documentary obviously risked their lives more than once to collect all of the footage. Amazing).

I posted this documentary on Facebook last week, but it has really affected me and I can't help posting about it again. I know I should keep my focus on certain causes, talk about, fight for and research one or two major concerns in this world, but I can't. Everything affects me and I want to make changes everywhere. I know I can't, but at least this blog is one platform where I can talk about everything and anything that affects me (be it in a good or bad way), and maybe, just maybe, it may affect one of you reading it and you will pass it along too.

Earlier this year, in the heyday of the Arab Spring, when news crews were showing us images of clashes in Libya, demonstrations in Egypt and protests in Bahrain, there was so much talk about people standing up for their rights, for democracy, for free speech and for change in these countries. A small domino effect of different populations seeing hope and reaching out to grab it in their hands. We all know what happened in Egypt (currently waiting for the first election results after the fall of Mubarak). We all know what happened in Libya (we all saw the pictures of Gaddafi being captured and then dead), but does anyone actually care that Bahrain just dropped off the newsreels back in the Spring? Does anyone actually really care what happened to the entire population who went out and peacefully protested for reform? They didn't even protest for the overturn of the ruling powers, just reform...Link
Watch this documentary, it will show you exactly what happens in a country when the minority ruling powers decide to go in and crack down on revolution, and when nobody in the West cares, because maybe, just maybe, this little country is too close to certain assets that we want to keep on our side. Watch how an entire population goes from rejoicing freedom and the right to speak to watching loved ones being shot down, arrested and tortured to death. And still, no one cares.

(And as food for thought, why are we all imposing sanctions on Syria - Western AND Arab countries - because of the violent governmental crackdown on protests, but no one even bothered with Bahrain?! This is not about not-caring, it's full-blown hypocrisy).